Will Hechman | Faculty of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
Four undergraduate students from the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff College of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Sciences (SAFHS) recently completed paid internships at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). For 10 weeks, they collaborated directly with ARS scientists at the Arkansas State University (ASU) Institute of Biological Sciences in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Dr. Nina Lyon-Bennett, Assistant Dean of Academics at SAFHS, said the student’s achievement marks the beginning of an undergraduate internship program that will provide UAPB students with professional work experience year after year.
Students who completed the internship were junior agricultural business majors Erikton Goodloe and Trenten Wills, junior nutrition and food science majors Madison Purifoy and second year agricultural engineering student Kur’an Suluki.
During his internship, Wills said he enjoys working with people from different backgrounds who love agriculture. He mainly studies irrigation systems.
“Every day, my team and I find ourselves walking on different soil types in different fields,” he said. “Despite the many fields, soils and plant types, one thing really remains the same – plants need water. Researching water irrigation systems is key to a farmer’s success. The implementation of technologies such as sensors, solar panels and probes all contribute to Ensuring better yields for our farmers and living up to the farming motto “Farm to Fork.”
Wells said the training was eye-opening because he could see firsthand the challenges farmers face.
“Being a farmer has a lot of challenges,” he said. “But when people come together and work as a team, they’re bound to succeed.”
Purifoy said she decided to enroll in an internship program to gain hands-on experience in lab and field research. Part of her responsibilities include analyzing the starch and sugar content of rice grown under different greenhouse conditions.
“This project helped me get on the doorstep of doing nutrition and food science research,” she said. “It taught me multiple aspects of farming and gave me an idea of what it would be like to be a researcher in the near future.”
Suruki said he wasn’t sure what to expect during his first internship.
“I was greeted by many agricultural experts who gave me wisdom from their experience in the field,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from those at Arkansas State and will carry with me what I’ve learned as I go along.”
Goodlow said he has a better understanding of different agricultural sectors because of the program. He also now has experience working with cutting edge farming techniques and techniques.
“Over the summer, I learned how to fly a drone, change flow meters, collect water samples and utilize different forms of agricultural technology,” he said. “I learned a lot by working with the ARS people.”
Goodlow said the internship complemented his status as the USDA’s 1890 National Scholar.
“It is a tremendous honor and achievement to be selected as a USDA National Scholar of 1890,” he said. “It’s a blessing and I couldn’t have done it without my family. Now I want to make my family proud.”
Internships would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Sathish Ponniah, associate professor of plant sciences, who helped write proposals for a nine-week co-op program, said Dr. Bennett.
“Additionally, there are Michele Reba, Acting Research Lead, ARS, Dr. Joseph Massey, Research Agronomist, ARS Delta Water Management Research Unit, and Dr. Arlene Adviento-Borbe, Research Agronomist and Chief Scientist, USDA-ARS Global Agricultural Research Alliance Greenhouse The Gas, Rice Research Group and ASU Associate Provost for Research and Technology Transfer, Dr. Thomas S. Risch, provided off-campus financial support, mentoring and experiential hands-on learning opportunities for our four students,” she said. “This relationship between these units and the UAPB illustrates the type of collaboration necessary to support undergraduate research and student success.”
Dr. Risch said it was an honor to host four UAPB students for a summer internship at ASU’s Arkansas Bioscience Institute (ABI).
“ABI is a consortium of agricultural and medical research dedicated to improving health in Arkansas,” he said. “As such, partnering with the University of Arkansas is important to us. Students like these UABP interns will be the leaders of tomorrow, bringing new and innovative approaches to agriculture and the challenge of feeding a growing global population. Provide solutions. We hope to continue and develop this project in the future.”
Dr. Advito-Borbe, who worked primarily with Purifoy and Wills, said she was grateful to UAPB-SAFHS for sharing students with ARS over the summer.
“We certainly have a productive program and would like to do more with the UAPB,” she said.
Massey said he was delighted to have the opportunity to mentor UAPB students.
“Meeting these wonderful young people and working with them has been the highlight of my summer,” he said.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff provides all outreach and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other Legally protected status and are an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.